The U.S. Department of Commerce has approved Gov. John Bel Edwards’ request and declared a federal fishery disaster today, which is an important step in Louisiana’s effort to qualify for millions in federal assistance for the state’s fishing industry after it was severely damaged by historic flooding this year.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced today that he has declared a fisheries disaster after finding that a catastrophic regional fishery disaster occurred for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama due to extreme flooding events in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I appreciate President Trump and Secretary Ross for this emergency declaration, which is critically important to our fishing industry in Louisiana," Gov. Edwards said. "Right now, we believe that brown shrimp and oysters are the areas where we qualify for assistance based on our demonstrated losses over the last 12 months. However, we will continue to work with NOAA to collect and analyze necessary data to determine economic impacts on additional fisheries that have been affected.  Our shrimpers, oyster farmers and fishers suffered greatly as Louisiana engaged in a historic flood flight this year, including two openings of the Bonnet Carré spillway, as the river was in flood stage for 211 days. In Louisiana, these industries not only support thousands upon thousands of jobs, they help provide some of the best seafood in the world to consumers.”

The declaration makes Louisiana available for existing disaster assistance through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $165 million through NOAA for declared fishery disasters. The Department of Commerce is determining the appropriate allocations of these funds to eligible fisheries.

Any declared fishery disaster can be included and extensive losses in the oyster industry, coupled with brown shrimp landings value decreasing by nearly 50 percent over the last 12 months, helped qualify these fisheries for the disaster declaration.

LDWF will be collecting more data on other fisheries such as commercial blue crab, finfish, and white shrimp, as well as charter for-hire and recreational fisheries, in order to ensure that all fisheries that qualify for assistance are included.  LDWF will also be developing a spending plan to be approved by NOAA that will describe how any disaster assistance may be used to help rehabilitate the fisheries impacted by the 2019 flood. 

LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet said, “It is anticipated that the spending plan will be ready for submittal to NOAA within the next few weeks.  It is hoped that once approved, disaster assistance funding will quickly be made available to Louisiana.”